Surely we don’t need another charity for Holocaust education? It’s been years and I’m sure it was just another Jewish exaggeration…”
A group sitting opposite me on the bus stared at my T-shirt, which bore the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) logo. I was immediately taken aback and my stomach dropped. I felt a mixture of confusion, sadness and anger – how is this happening in the 21st century? This is why I do what I do, I thought to myself. Remembering everything I knew and had learnt so far as a Regional Ambassador, I decided to challenge their comments. By the time I got off the bus, they had apologised to me and retracted what they said.
“Action is the only remedy to indifference,” a statement once made by Elie Wiesel, is a message essential to the core of what we do as Regional Ambassadors. However, with the responsibility of taking action comes challenges, especially in the digital age, where the increasing ease of accessibility of the internet and the difficulty of regulation makes online abuse the most prominent form that we experience, and we only have to be asked once to be able instantly to share examples of this.
One ambassador found her personal information, including her university name and work address, circulated on Twitter by a member of a Holocaust denial group she had called out on social media. On an online denial forum, a colleague found a thread set up with comments that she had “sold her soul to the Jew”; another told me about antisemitism on his university’s anonymous Facebook page. The list goes on.
It is easy to feel disheartened when we have these negative experiences, but it serves as a source of motivation for us to keep going.
How can our desire to do what we do waver when we work alongside the very people who are our inspiration – the survivors, who experienced the very worst of humanity yet who lead us in the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial day in and day out without giving up?
This makes us more determined to keep going, and it is with great support, including that of the team at HET, that we are able to meet those challenges. The fact that together we are resilient in our goal of continuing this important work, which is so pivotal to the shaping of our society today, while continuing to overcome the challenges that we face, is a shining torch in the darkness that is antisemitism.
What this persistent abuse shows us is how much work we still have to do, and it is the collective responsibility of humankind to defend the truth of the worst genocide in history.
We know exactly where prejudice and discrimination can lead to if they are left unchecked, no matter their origin, and we will not stop the work we do because, despite saying ‘never again’, it seems to be again and again. We will not back down, but continue to educate society about the Holocaust and the lessons we have learnt from it.
It is our duty to the victims of the Shoah, to the Jewish and minority communities as a whole, and we hope we can give the survivors the peace of mind to know that as long as we are here as the pioneers of the future, we commit to this promise and their history will live on.
- Jaya Pathak is a Holocaust educational trust regional ambassador and guest editor